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Windows Tech Writer Looks at Linux 664

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the outside-looking-in dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Three days ago I accepted Linux into my life and while I'm not yet a convert, the experience has shaken my faith in Windows. It's hard to reconcile because for nearly 20 years I've mostly stayed on the one true Windows path."
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Windows Tech Writer Looks at Linux

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  • by Martin Kallisti (652377) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:27PM (#6325477)
    I cannot really find this relevant. I mean, we have all heard the Linux is better than Windows, blah blah blah. I mean, if someone (a real person, that is) posted a testimony that Windows is better than Linux, then it could be news, but this feels just like regurgitation.
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles.jones@nospAm.zen.co.uk> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:29PM (#6325494)
    I think he was talking of 20 years of personal computer use.
  • Not Worth Our Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by carb (611951) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:30PM (#6325496) Homepage
    This article is something like 10 small paragraphs long as an introduction to setting up and running (for a short while now) Linux. It is hardly worth the average Slashdot reader's time.
  • by ucblockhead (63650) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:33PM (#6325518) Homepage Journal
    I have a very low opinion of anybody who could spend twenty years of experience in the IT industry without using more than one OS.


    I mean, it's 2003, for God's sakes.

  • by pytheron (443963) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:35PM (#6325529) Homepage
    Yet another person tries linux, finds to their surprise that it is possible for a collection of loosely tied enthusiasts to produce something that works well, and writes about it, with the weight of "I'm a tech writer, so my opinion is more valid ;-) ) It discourages me when I read comments like the one in the artice - "What was it like - surprisingly, rather like Windows". Rather than look for similarities between the two, see how well you can use it, and comment on that useability, not on it's similarities. This way, fewer first time adopters will be put off when they discover that some things definately are _not_ like Windows.
  • uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:36PM (#6325541)
    "Three days ago I accepted Linux into my life and while I'm not yet a convert, the experience has shaken my faith in Windows. It's hard to reconcile because for nearly 20 years I've mostly stayed on the one true Windows path."

    If they have been using Windows for 20 years they are foremost a technical person, early adopter, and to some extent a knowledgable computer person.

    The fact that Linux is always an "alternative" to Windows is in my opinion, just furthering the saying that "Linux is for people that hate Windows, BSD is for people that love UNIX". Why do Linux users always have to profess their fate to Linus & Stallman and in the same breath say something, ANYTHING, about Windows?

    I run FreeBSD & NetBSD because I love UNIX and its capabilities and its features and EVERYTHING. It has nothing to do with Windows. Ever. I still run Windows XP and 2K. With Linux users it seems to be a conversion of holy nature like they are becoming a shaolin priest and can't look back....why?
  • Short Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:36PM (#6325545)

    Kind of a dry article. All it really says is "I tried Linux. It took a while to set up. It wasn't too hard to use after setup. There were a lot of different software choices." To me, that's the big note of the story: that a rube took a look at Linux and couldn't believe that this platform had more than one viable word processor, browser, etc. "Look, Mom -- No monopoly!"

  • by CPgrower (644022) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:37PM (#6325549)
    Positive news like this doesn't hurt GNU/Linux's image while the SCO fiasco ensues.
  • Re:Favorite quote (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrP- (45616) * <rob.elitemrp@net> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:41PM (#6325577) Homepage
    It took me 2 years to get my winmodem working in linux.. sure i coulda bought a real modem, but I liked my $15 56k winmodem..

    So I downloaded BeOS PE one day, and my modem worked with it! Yay Linux!..I mean BeOS!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:42PM (#6325586)
    Well... it's all opinions, everyone have different needs.

    I do like Linux way more than Windows, but that doesn't mean everyone will accept my point of view, others think *BSD-based systems are better than Linux... are they wrong? I think no, they are not wrong after all... but neither they are right, I mean, we all have different goals, don't we?
  • by zonix (592337) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:43PM (#6325595) Homepage Journal
    Here, software is not made by armies of "Microserfs" employed by a giant corporation, but by armies of volunteer programmers who "donate" their code to the public domain.

    Nice article probably, but Free and Open Source software is not "public domain". It _is_ copyrighted and comes with a license, which grants you the right to modify/redistribute, etc. Well, I guess I'll give the guy a break - he is new on the block. :-)

    z
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:43PM (#6325598)
    One thing that hasn't changed since the days of MSDOS is the underlying philosophy of Microsoft operating systems. Bill Gates's vision of an operating system has always been that the os need be little more than a program launcher.

    The whole MS goal is to encourage the user of its operating systems to buy "applications" which can be launched by a few clicks. A corollary to the Microsoft philosophy is that all human actions can be anticipated and distilled into a a few fixed menus.

    There really isn't any problem with Microsoft products as long as the menus match the user's needs. However the frustration sets in when the user grows beyond Microsoft's predigested canned offerings. There is little one can do except possibly buy another "application" in the never ending quest for the final one. The game is rigged and your goal will always be just out of reach -- tomorrow, next month, next year.

    You see, actually, it isn't really about buying new applications per se. It's about buying new menus, the eternal search for the perfect menu which will do it all.

  • by Martin Kallisti (652377) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:43PM (#6325599)
    Well, as most other people here, I support Linux. However, that does not mean that I think Slashdot should be just a propaganda machine, pumping out all positive material regarding Linux that the editors can find, no matter how newsworthy it is. I come here to read news for nerds, stuff that matters, not just to be subjected to "Microsoft sucks and Linux is the best".
  • by JohnTheFisherman (225485) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:47PM (#6325615)
    The gift came to me via David and Roger, two very nice, not pushy, Linux missionaries who are involved with the coming Linux Installfest.

    It wouldn't hurt to have more of their type.
  • by tim_maroney (239442) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:53PM (#6325645) Homepage
    (If you don't know how to defrag, you're probably not ready for the Linux experience.)

    Setting it all up can, however, be a little daunting...

    Etc. This and other negative comments about usability in the article make an unintentional but important point.

    Linux is not for ordinary people. It's for computer enthusiasts. Most people want to use the computer as a tool, not for its own sake. They have no interest in memorizing reams of arcane computer trivia in order to get email, surf the web, write, and work on spreadsheets.

    Desktop Linux can't and won't satisfy the requirements of the ordinary user, even though it may be a great playground for hobbyists, as well as a perfectly reasonable solution on the server side for many applications. The conversion of a longtime computer hobbyist says nothing about the dream many Linux users have of their pet OS becoming a significant force in the desktop market. Neither they nor Chris Barton reflect the consumers in that market.
  • by flikx (191915) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:53PM (#6325646) Homepage Journal

    Actually, it's quite fitting for the average slashdot reader. Most people here are armchair Linux users. Some may even have a dual boot system set up. But the majority: "I only use Windows for games." (and email, slashdot, work, coding, chatting, and browsing my internet.)

    It's no surprise that 95% of slashdot traffic comes from IE.

  • by Vandil X (636030) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @01:59PM (#6325676)
    No operating system is perfect and there will never be one that does it all.

    Each OS develops its own niche based on what people want to do with them.

    A few stereotypical examples:

    Windows - gaming, using Office programs, file/doamin servers
    MacOS - graphic artistry, press pagination, digital media creation
    Unix - c++ coding and using pine for shell account email access.
    Linux - web servers and homebrew software/drivers

    While some of these roles are capable of being done on other OSes, it's the right "mix" the user personally needs.

    Naturally, a person could just multi-boot or, even better, multi-box and have a couple of OSes to do the things you like?

    Unfortunately, Joe Q. Sixpack probably doesn't want to dabble with multiple operating systems and wants to use just one that's easy and does the things they want. Hence why Windows and MacOS will remain more widespread in the desktop world for years to come.
  • Re:Favorite quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hatstandman (466901) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:00PM (#6325683) Homepage Journal
    This kind of feeling / comment can't be encouraging for people who want to make the switch from MS. As it mentions in the article (and a comment above), he had two 'nice, not pushy' guys to help with his install - people who would probably help him with a problem like this rather than sit back and laugh.
  • Re:Favorite quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:02PM (#6325696)
    Sheer hell, it sounds like!

    Back in the day, attempting to decipher the poorly written, unorganized, and very cryptic ppp, slip, and chat documentation could take hours if not weekends.

    An hour is clearly a milestone of progress, here.
  • by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:08PM (#6325722)
    .. the thing I found about Linux, is once you have it set up right, it is great for technophobes.

    This is true about UNIX, in general. While Windows would behave as if it were born in a universe with no cause and effect, Linux, OpenBSD, Solaris, etc. just behave. With UNIX, most problems are either up-front configuration issues or external issues, such as an ISP going down for an evening.

    UNIX is sort of like a hard mountain climb, which ends in a flat plateau of endless easy hiking with oasises along the way. Windows is just an endless climb where fatique makes hallucinations of plateaus appear and disapperar tauntingly.
  • Which is why... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:16PM (#6325755) Homepage
    Linux is not for ordinary people. It's for computer enthusiasts. Most people want to use the computer as a tool, not for its own sake. They have no interest in memorizing reams of arcane computer trivia in order to get email, surf the web, write, and work on spreadsheets. ...Windows comes preinstalled. If you have a properly set up distribution with some good default choices (OpenOffice, Evolution etc.) it is not really any harder than on Windows, apart from unfamiliarity. Getting a Linux geek there to install and configure it shouldn't be the problem, the question is what it takes to keep it running, and more importantly if it runs the software people want to run.

    Kjella
  • Re:Defrag? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:23PM (#6325786)
    To move all the existing data to the front of the drive to make room for the new partition and OS at the back? Or am I missing something painfully obvious here?
  • Re:uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the gnat (153162) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:23PM (#6325789)
    Why do Linux users always have to profess their fate to Linus & Stallman and in the same breath say something, ANYTHING, about Windows?

    Why do BSD users have to brag about how l33t they are? I'm sure the BSDs rock, but they are still much harder to leap into. It's all about momentum and developer mindshare. I'm not using Linux because of the philosophy, but because it suits my needs and I know how to use it.

    I run FreeBSD & NetBSD because I love UNIX and its capabilities and its features and EVERYTHING. It has nothing to do with Windows.

    Good for you. This may come as a shock, but many of us use Linux for the same reason.

    As for the Windows-bashing, I grew up on Macintoshes, and never touched a PC, with the result that Windows has always seemed like a model of how not to design an OS. At some point in college I switched to Linux (then Solaris, then Irix) because I was tired of my iMac crashing all the time (this was long before OS X). Now that I'm a full-time programmer, many of the people I work with use Windows and love it. Unfortunately, they expect me to love it too, and help them with it, and read their .doc files, and help them pirate the expensive proprietary software they can't do without. Pardon me if I sound bitter.

    So, it's all a matter of circumstances - I bash Windows because it is the bane of my existence and because I can't avoid it no matter how hard I try. I don't give a shit what platform others prefer, but where Microsoft is concerned people usually force their preferences on me.
  • by coyote-san (38515) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:27PM (#6325813)
    Macs and X11 were usable in the 80s, but Windows was a joke until 3.11 (and not coincidently Microsoft started playing hardball on making other solutions work). Anyone doing real work at the time would have used the Borland or similar environments, or perhaps GEM (iirc).

    But that doesn't take away from his point that he's been working in this environment for a very long time.
  • by rzbx (236929) <slashdot&rzbx,org> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:58PM (#6325977) Homepage
    Why pull numbers out of your ass?
    According to a recent interview with some of the /. crew on slashnet found here
    http://www.slashnet.org/forums/Slashdot-2003 0612.h tml
    it is about 50%.
  • by Cthefuture (665326) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @02:59PM (#6325978)
    Since Knoppix boots right off the CD and doesn't touch your system then I feel that's the best way to get newbies interested. That way there is no commitment to just try Linux.

    Most of the time it requires zero work to get them running Linux. After that they can decide if they want to really install Linux.

    Even though I don't use it, KDE 3.1 usually produces a very favorable impression of Linux because it looks slick.
  • by eht (8912) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:01PM (#6325987)
    An exceptionally liberal license would be MIT or BSD style.

    hmm flamebait
  • by bsharitt (580506) <brandon@sha[ ]t.com ['rit' in gap]> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:09PM (#6326024) Homepage Journal
    Most people wouldn't touch DOS anymore (Most Slashdot users exempted from that)

    How many Slashdot users do you think use DOS. Since most think Windows is an inferior OS, I would think that they would consider DOS beneath them as well.

  • I believe. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SHEENmaster (581283) <travis&utk,edu> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:23PM (#6326104) Homepage Journal
    Linux is fundumentally designed as a replacement for UNIX, not a replacement for Windows.

    I've been Linux-only for two years, and I've been running a Linux server for 4 years. As a result, I have a much different view on things.

    While you ask for Visual Studio, I ask for a decent replacement for my developer tools. I don't even see "grep" for winshit, much less the pipes required to make it useful. I don't see a decent commandline, or any semblence thereof. COMMAND.COM is crap, and so is CMD.EXE(essentially COMMAND.COM+DOSKEY).

    GUI utilities are $599.40+tax a dozen in Windows, and a dime of bandwidth a dozen in Linux. A good command line base is essential for me. I can search through all of HTTP access logs and only display the results of my dad checking his email to find his current IP address with a single, simple, line of shell code. Then I can securely connect to his computer and change whatever needs to be changed without wasting bandwidth with (Tight)VNC.

    If you just want virtual desktops (which can be of any amount) check out LiteStep [litestep.net].

    Pointing and clicking is like a baby pointing and screaming. Stuff gets done, but it's a lot faster to ask in an intelligible language. I'll never give up a great shell(zsh being my favorite) for a prettier interface.
  • by ElectricPoppy (679857) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:26PM (#6326115)
    Personally, I don't like RedHat. They strike me as the "Microsoft Windows" of the Linux world. I will have to say though, that I installed RedHat 9 on my system here, just to use as a base to build an LFS system, and I was majorly impressed with the installer. It found ALL of my hardware and it worked right out of the box - and that includes a Sony IEEE1394 DVDRW. On the other hand, I was extremely disappointed that RedHat decided to remove ALL support for mp3s from the their distribution. So, that was kind of a pain in the ass, though not impossible to remedy.

    You're right about the games. And you're right about if you need to develop for Windows. I have the luxury of telling my employer I refuse to develop for Windows for moral reasons. As for games, take a look at Tux Racer if you decide to give Linux another shot. It's a great proof-of-concept showing that great games under Linux can be produced in an open source/free software environment.

    Others here have pointed out the various applications available. While the gimp is usable, I despise it. What a crappy interface. And I absolutely cannot live without 3dsmax, though there is a pov modeller for KDE that looks promising.

    So, I think Linux is well out of infancy. It's outgrown its diapers and hit puberty. It won't be long before it is a real contender with Windows. And I don't mean that in a technical way - technically, it's been ahead of Windows for a long time now - I mean it in the sense that an average person could go pick it up off the shelf of Best Buy and actually be satisfied with it.

  • by seismic (91160) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:28PM (#6326123)
    Liberation can only happen if a person no longer wants what you're leaving behind.

    Many people aren't willing to liberate themselves from their 3d games and expensive investments in existing software and hardware.

    I've helped many people install their first linux. With a few notable exceptions, most enjoy the experience, feel good about themselves for a period of time, and then go back to their Windows desktops. The smarter ones figure out how to run both environments and reap the benefits of both.

    seismic

    drag me drop me treat me like an object
  • Re:Favorite quote (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:32PM (#6326144)
    Well...i'm programming for a living, and i defaintly am into anything computers. But the novelty of getting your modem to work wears off pretty quickly, even for me. There are other fun things i'd rather be doing with a computer, i've installed enough OSes and drivers that i'd really like to be done with it. There are other more interesting problems i'd like to solve; i'd like my internet connection to just work.
  • by Chmarr (18662) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:07PM (#6326309)
    To me, the article seems that was 'just enough' pro-linux to get mentioned on a site like Slashdot, but not enough 'real information' to actually convince many people at all.

    And that whole psuedo-religion thing turned me off treating the article seriously, and I bet it will turn away many Windows-but-thinking-of-trying-Linux users too.

    Bleah... I've seen way better advocacy than this.
  • by IntlHarvester (11985) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:16PM (#6326353) Journal
    A decade ago, getting access to Unix was HARD. Sure, a few people could get a shell in a university timeshare setup. However, running 'ls' and 'pine' as non-root in a term emulator doesn't really compare to running a modern productive Unix 'desktop'.

    I know a few guys like the author. People working with PCs in a business setting had DOS/Novell/OS2/Windows/NT and tons of apps and languages to deal with. Non-PC systems were usually VMS or IBM. Unix was easy to avoid because that's not where the applications were. (That's all changed, but only in the last 5 years or so as UNIX took over the high-end and Linux made the low-end accesible.)

    If you're advocating, it's important to grok that "PC Culture" is as old and entrenced as Unix culture. People just don't like to throw out 20 years of What They Know for something different. In a lot of ways, Linux is the bridge between the PC world and the Unix world, but it's still a big jump to make.
  • by sgage (109086) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:25PM (#6326388)
    I have been using Linux since RH 5.1 - worked my way through various 6's, 7's, and 8.0. I spent a considerable amount of time learning and understanding Linux, and got pretty knowledgeable about it. I tried very hard to go all-Linux, all the time, but I couldn't and still can't do it. Here's why: apps. Yes, apps.

    OK, the Office situation I consider adequately covered. Ditto Internet: email, browsing, etc. I even converted my years of Quicken data over to CBB. And I couldn't care less about games. But I still found myself needing to dual-boot, and I hate needing to dual-boot.

    It's the less mainstream stuff that's still missing. On Windows, I have some excellent topographic map software, nicely integrated with my GPS unit. I have some excellent birding software, with videos and birdsongs. Great genealogical software. Great sound editing software. Etc., etc. I looked pretty hard, but was not able to find Linux equivalents.

    When Windows 2000 came out, that was a turning point. So much more stable than Windows 98. I generally run Windows 2000 now, and hardly ever boot into Linux. I don't have the time or inclination to maintain 2 systems, so I'll stick with Windows 2000, because it's good enough.
  • by cyborch (524661) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:27PM (#6326396) Homepage Journal

    Oh yes, you can peek into the source code and they can't. But how many computer users actually care about the source code?

    I care. Also, I long ago stopped trying to convert people who don't care. Because, as you say, the free choice has nothing to offer people who do not care.

  • by nick this (22998) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:28PM (#6326400) Journal
    One would suppose that's why this site isn't "News for Martin Kallisti. Stuff that matters." I think you are confusing this site with a democracy.

    It isn't. Deal with it.

    Either that, or you and the other guys that are always complaining about it can go set up an "antislash" site that promotes news items you think are more appropriate. My guess is that if you got any kind of following, you'd find trolls on your board saying "I hate that they never publish Microsoft sucks and Linux is the best kind of articles".

    Can't please everyone. I think you just have to take it how it is.
  • by dash2 (155223) <davidhughjones AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:29PM (#6326402) Homepage Journal
    You probably remember having trouble getting most hardware to work, That's a thing of the past as well, It's a rare case for me to install Linux, and have to manually configure hardware.

    This is almost true. I just had a seven-day nightmare, trying to get an unrecognized wireless card to work with SuSE. The great advantage Microsoft has is that every piece of hardware you buy comes with Windows drivers.

    (Actually, come to think of it, my card had a Linux driver. But I had to compile it myself (kernel versioning hell prevents precompiled drivers) and when the card wasn't autorecognized, there was no way their tech support would help. They just pointed me at the HOWTO.)

    From which I conclude... well, don't buy Trendware wireless cards. But also, that Linux is going to impact the corporate desktop long before it really makes a difference in the home desktop.

    Corporations can have hardware buying policies and make sure they get Linux-compatible hardware. Corporations have sysadmins who can use the wonderful command line. And Linux is naturally built for multi-user environments.

    The home desktop is a much harder - and less lucrative - market to crack. I don't really see it, to be honest, until the corporate market has cracked.

  • Re:I believe. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jussi K. Kojootti (646145) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:33PM (#6326426)
    I don't even see "grep" for winshit

    So, where exactly did you look? I usually start with Google [google.com]. From the numerous possibilities I'd recommend this one [interlog.com] because of the support for subdir-searches.

    You're right about the piping of course, but an outright lie like that (not to mention using terms like winshit) kind of lowers the value of the whole post.

  • by shaitand (626655) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:38PM (#6326452) Journal
    That is an important note. I find autodetection of hardware to be far superior in linux when compared with windows!

    But you are certainly looking at more work in those rare cases where things don't autodetect.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:17PM (#6326614)
    > GUI utilities are $599.40+tax a dozen in Windows, and a dime of bandwidth a dozen in Linux.

    Show me a Linux replacement for Adobe FrameMaker (or better yet, a port), and I'm there. Even at $599.40 or whatever Adobe's charging this week.

    The original article was written from the point of view of a technical writer. IMO, any technical writer using MSTurd for documents over 100 pages in length needs to have his head examined. (Fuckin' Windows print drivers that won't print the same Word document the same way on two computers, meantime the FrameMaker d00dz are happily writing stuff in Frame on their Windoze laptops, then checking the files in to the source code control system at work, where they resume working on them from their Solaris and Windoze and Mac desktop boxen.)

    I think FrameMaker's market share at the midrange of tech writers is pretty high, and for good reason. If you want to go beyond FrameMaker, you're talking even more money - Documentum-class document management systems, single sourcing from a big pile of XML into PDF, hardcopy, or HTML - but Linux ain't even in contention here.

    It's sorta like Photoshop vs. The Gimp. The Gimp's great for Joe Tuxpack's vacation photos, but if you're doing color separations for inks that are requires to print on a billboard, and you wanna be damn sure it's the shade of puce that your Marketing department wast^H^H^H^Hpaid half a million bucks in researching, sorry kids, break out the Photoshop.

  • by LowTolerance (301722) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:06PM (#6326867)
    I think it's pathetic that someone who writes articles on PC use took this long to just check out linux. It isn't like it's some obscure OS! It's half as old as his PC experience!
  • by spitzak (4019) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:08PM (#6326873) Homepage
    To the average person, Windows is free. It came with the computer, and it is therefore free, as far as the consumer is concerned all that money went for the piece of hardware.

    If Microsoft is ever foolish enough to make Windows pop up a "type in your credit card number so we can charge you $20" window, then people will switch to Linux in droves. However Microsoft can get away with charging $200 or more (yes I know that right now it is only about $50 but I believe that is a possible limit) per machine manufactured and people will gladly believe it is "free".

  • by mixmasta (36673) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:08PM (#6326878) Homepage Journal
    It certainly does not. :-/ command dot com is only comparable to a real shell in that you type commands with a keyboard.

    It is a pathetic, primitive program loader at best.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:27PM (#6326997) Homepage Journal
    Heh heh! Look at the clueless "tech writer". Heh heh!

    People, the guy writes for the New Zealand News, not Nework Computing. His audience is people who want to be informed about technology without being made to feel stupid about it.

    The use of quotes is one technique to introduce terms in a way that acknowledges that the terms might be new to Windows users. The author wrote, "If you don't know how to defrag, you're probably not ready for the Linux experience." Note that he didn't say, "I don't know what defrag means." He wrote it in a way that made readers realize that there is some technical stuff going on with a Linux installation that might be new to them.

    While it's funny to think that there are people out there who don't know how to defrag a disc or set up dual booting, or select the right distribution for their needs, the truth is that if Linux is going to penetrate the skulls of Joe and Joan Public, they'll need gentle introductions like the one provided by Mr. Barton.

    I love to ride bicycles. But I hate going into a bike shop where the people who work their look down their nose at me simply because I don't shave my legs and ride a Lightspeed. If you've ever been in a bike shop like that, you know what it's like to be a Windows user confronted by sneering Linux know-it-alls. The "you're an idiot" mentality of so many Linux users is the opposite of true evangelism.

    Chris Barton has the right approach to introducing Windows users to Linux in a non-threatening way. Kudos to the man.

  • by Inexile2002 (540368) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:50PM (#6327080) Homepage Journal
    But also because for the first time there is a realistic alternative to Windows that runs on Intel-based PCs.
    I love that. He writes that as though in his grandfather and great grandfather's day we all had no choice for OSes. It never ceases to amaze me the power branding has over people. M$ drops a couple of billion into ads and people really buy into it. People really believe that Nike's shoes are better somehow, people actually go to McDonalds.

    One of my favourite analogies when it comes to M$ and Linux comes from something I saw a couple of summers ago. Some soccer club was doing a fund raiser and selling food at a soccer tournament. They had bar-b-ques fired up, real beef burgers going, a salad bar where you could get the fixings you wanted for it and although it was mostly people improvising stuff they were serving up a damn good burger.

    Half a block away there was a McDonalds, and me and some of the other watched people leave the stands, walk to the McDonalds and come back with a McDonalds hamburger (or whatever, Big Mac or what have you). The burgers the soccer club was selling were cheaper, clearly better by any definition of a burger and right there for the taking. The only explanation me and my friends could come up with for why people would walk to the McDonalds is brand.

    Weird weird stuff.
  • by dtolton (162216) * on Sunday June 29, 2003 @07:02PM (#6327141) Homepage
    I'm not buying your Red Hat 5.2 : Red Hat 9 :: Win3.1 : Win2k analogy. Windows 3.1 is a 16-bit DOS shell with a crude UI, and Windows 2000 is a 32-bit protected OS with pre-emptive multi-tasking.

    So by your logic, Windows XP really isn't all that different than Windows NT 3. I mean Windows NT 3.0 was 32 bit pre-emptively multi-tasked operating system. In fact if you look at the help about for Windows XP you will see that it is in fact only Windows 5.1 (Windows 2000 was 5.0). Windows XP, just has better hardware support and a better interface (packages aren't any better though).

    You are of course falling into the unfortunately common mistake of equating the kernel to the OS. They are not the same thing, yes Red Hat 9 runs a kernel that descended from the same kernel it ran with 5.2 (albeit significantly improved). However a kernel does not an Operating System make, just as a heart doesn't make a human being.

    There are significant differences between Red Hat 5.2 and Red Hat 9.0. All the Linux distributuins have underdone *tremendous* amounts of growth during the past 5 years. In fact they have changed far more dramatically than Windows has in that same time frame.
  • by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @07:19PM (#6327217)
    On a side-note, my Microsoft intellimouse wouldn't work on my Windows 2000 and it even made some irreparable damage to that machine. (I know the MS mouse driver caused this, because according to CNET.com/download.com, 12% of the people who downloaded that driver had the same exact problem.) And yet, when I recycled the mouse on my linux box, Red Hat autodetected it without a hitch, and it has worked beautifully for two years (going on three).

    In any case, I agree that there is a lot of FUD about Linux. It takes too much time and too much research to install anything. Often times, the precompiled binaries don't work, the make install instructions are oversimplified, and the glowing recommendations made by Linux zealouts are simply inaccurate.

    To all the Windows people, my personal recommendation is to use Linux to recycle your old/"broken down" hardware. Who knows -- You might just get lucky. As to the people who try to replicate their Windows setup. Forget it, you're wasting your time if you think Linux can replicate your setup. Linux has some unique abilities itself. It will improve some aspects of your computing environment, but it will not be able to replace all the stuff your Windows machine can already do. Contrary to popular belief, Linux and Windows are not interchangeable -- they're complementary.

  • by paj1234 (234750) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:26PM (#6327545)
    Mrs Betty Blow, to create a character, is Joe Blow's wife. She has quite different wishes to the tech writer in the article. She has (IMHO) been poorly served by Windows et al in the past.

    What she wants:

    - Email
    - Web browsing
    - Letter writing
    - Printing
    - Solitaire
    - That's it.

    What she doesn't want to do:

    - Change the mouse speed
    - Change the colour scheme
    - Change the monitor settings
    - Change the time zone
    - Muck about with screen savers
    - Add or remove programs
    - Select new hardware eg printers
    - Play games other than Solitaire
    - Use Internet chat
    - Use fancy web sites with streaming audio etc

    Hackers, you know how to use a system like Debian to build a setup that does these simple tasks. Just be local and be around. Use SSH or TightVNC to help sort out problems if you want.

    By contrast, Windows presents a bewildering world full of control panels and other scary things. Betty's never going to touch them, so why clutter up the interface by presenting them? I don't know how many people fall into the Betty category but I'm willing to bet it's a lot more than we might think...
  • by tres (151637) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:47PM (#6327625) Homepage
    This goes back to what I think is the highest hurdle Linux has yet to leap: application support by industrial software houses like Adobe.

    Without applications a platform is dead. It doesn't matter how good it is, how easy it is to use, how intuitive or how much it costs. What matters is having professional grade applications available for your platform. Linux is thriving in the server arena just because the best server-side applications (like Apache) are available.

    People don't buy Windows because they like the "look and feel" of it. They buy Windows because it has the applications they need.

    No matter how good the Mandrake installer is, no matter how nice and easy KDE is to use, no matter how much support is available, Linux won't win on the desktop until it has the application portfolio that people need.

  • by styrotech (136124) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:14PM (#6327744)
    Who is this curly-haired kiwi that his experience is noteworthy?

    Ummm, the editor of a consumer level magazine for Windows users (mostly). And the article was printed in NZ's largest newspaper. This wasn't aimed at computer/IT industry readers.

    As for the newsworthiness of posting it to Slashdot, the only reason I can think of is the intended audience is people that would normally be scared of leaving Windows. It is newsworthy for it's intended audience though.
  • by timothy (36799) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:29PM (#6328028) Homepage Journal
    How plausible would a parallel article have been (a few years back), perhaps in Byte or Dr. Dobbs announcing that Amiga was ready for the masses?

    (If someone can point to one, I'll take this back, but I don't *think* Amiga -- or BeOS, or a lot of others -- ever got past the Beautiful Swandive phase, no matter how nice they are, or how many people persist in not burying them :))

    Bob Young's book about Red Hat's (so-far) success is titled "Under the Radar" -- seems like an apt phrase not just for Red Hat but more generally for the way Linux (or, to be fair, BSD) desktops have semi-suddenly become hip to heap praise on, much of it deserved.

    OpenOffice, AbiWord, KOffice, Mozilla, the various free programming languages, the various free desktop environments, (etc etc) have been evolving for years, and the Free software matrix is both complete and flexible enough that a Grand Unified Final Answer hasn't been necessary. Rough edges are still there, probably always will be, but they demonstrate how dynamic the whole process is. Every minor release of GCC shows this, in fact :) *That's* why suddenly there are complete systems that even many Windows diehards admit are either "good enough" or nearly there -- because it's not sudden at all.

    timothy

  • by agendi (684385) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @11:26PM (#6328252)
    It's true that often the moving of someone over to linux involves lots of evangelising (almost bludgeoning). It's like an attack on the uninitiated based on very technical arguments - which ultimately leaves them feeling stupid. More often than not the discussion begins in a friendly benign way and ends in both side getting red in the face. I gave up several years ago trying to convert people (and oh did I try).

    So what follows is only my opinion of what I think is best for the open source community and the end user as a whole.

    Lead by example: Despite all the best technical arguments in the world, people's curiosity is tweaked by what appears to be different. "Wow that windows looks different?", "It's not windows." (count to 5 in head) "Really?.. well what is it?" Whatever your opinions are of Lindows and their ilk, the reality is that they are keeping things similar, but making them a little different. People look at it seriously and wonder what it is like to use, whether it will address some of the things that they didn't like about Windows etc. The more end users that linux attracts the more momentum to polish the experience. There is no reason at all why linux can't be polished, it's just usually because the community looks down on form over function. Unfortunately the mums and dads of the world don't know much about the function and can only judge by the form.

    One of our complaints about windows is that it hides things from us or tries to second guess what we want - this is often held up by the non-techinical types as windows biggest strength. No amount of arguing that cmd.exe is crap will affect them.

    I marvel at the mum and dad computer user because they treat computers as tools (as they really are). That is my mother will boot the machine, type in an email, send it, read her other messages and then turn the computer off. On the other hand I like to leave my machine on if not constantly, then at least for 8 or 9 hours at a stretch. Arguments on Stability simply don't impress her unless something crashes in the 20 minutes that she is using the machine (which is very rare).

    One linux zealot I knew would constantly sprout the "linux is free" line. That would get people in in droves. He was quite happy to run off copies of mandrake or slackware and give them to those that were interested, but soon as they came to ask him questions (usually on how to get the modem working) it was "RTFM" or he'd help but make them feel stupid the entire time. So linux wasn't free because it was a trade off for these people of time versus money.

    So now, I try to get linux running somewhere visible and quietly let others come to me to ask about it rather than taking it on the road. The more non-technical people we get championing linux the better because they will talk about it in "real world" terms and they will make the best advocates.

  • by 2short (466733) on Monday June 30, 2003 @12:58AM (#6328593)
    I hate that analogy. I'm not arguing against OSS here, just the analogy:

    Cars, under normal use, eventually break down. Software does not. If my car could reasonably be expected to keep doing the same things it did on the test drive, forever, I would indeed not care if I could open the hood. I don't think I've ever gotten a "new feature" for my car, and a "bugfix" would be analagous to a recall for a faulty part: I expect the original manufaturer to handle it. Typical car repairs due to wear-and-tear just don't have an equivalent in software.
    I do not care if I can open the hood of my car for the same reason most people don't care if they have the source of their software. I know as little about car engines as they do about programming.
  • by 2short (466733) on Monday June 30, 2003 @02:51AM (#6328954)
    I call it probably misconfigured hardware, if not straight out bullshit. My XP box has never crashed, yet I pin the CPU regularly, so I don't think "load" is the issue. Anyway, the point is that if your software works for a particular task today, it is not going to eventually fail at that same task due to wear-and-tear.

    I'm just saying it bugs me when OSS advocates say "Would you buy a car with the hood welded shut?" because my answer is "Yes, that would be great." In fact, I've had my current car for two years now, and as far as I know, the hood IS welded shut.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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